Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Your Sous

Thanks to a late night, 3-hour shopping trip yesterday, I believe I am now ready for the most intense baking season of the year. I started hoarding supplies about a week ago and you should too. Why? Because EVERYTHING goes on sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I got butter and flour for half price, eggs for 99¢, and everything is super sized!

I also got this Bundt pan. Did you know the Bundt pan is actually trademarked, hence the capital B? And since America’s Test Kitchen told me the best one is made by Nordicware, that’s what I got. It’s currently in the oven with a pumpkin cake in it. My house smells AMAZING but I’m still crossing my fingers for easy removal...

Do you like how I use all caps, all the time? I do. If you feel like I’m yelling at you, I’m not. It’s just for added, across the internet, Jenni effect. Anyway, Lily made her first layer cake last night and her first batch of homemade frosting this morning. Red Velvet was a first for both of us.

I was her sous. I actually don’t know what the title is for the person directly under a pastry chef, but that was me. I prepped ingredients, cleaned as we went, and offered advice when Lily didn’t ask for it ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to all and long distance hugs to my loved ones. I am thankful for you today and always. I’ll be your sous any time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Cupcake and Coffee to Go, Please

When ever I want to start out a day by treating myself, I head to a nearby coffee shop for a skim latte and the best looking thing in the bakery case. Usually that’s Wash Perk and an almond scone, or Whole Foods and an almond croissant, both of which are within walking distance from my house. Yes, I am spoiled rotten. And I like it.

When ever I want others to share in my sweet, weekday morning bliss, Claire makes coffee and I make Coffee Cakes. Today they sustained 10 VOC staff and volunteers for over 6 hours while stuffing and preparing year-end reports. Thank goodness for baked goods; we almost died of stiff necked monotony. I find that baked goods for breakfast are the best excuse for starting your day with dessert ;)

Coffee Cakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, makes 24

1 ¼ cups unbleached flour
¾ cup brown sugar
2 ¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup plus 2 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature
medium sized bowl
wire whisk
pastry blender or 2 butter knives
2 ¼ cups unbleached flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup plus 2 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup low fat sour cream
medium bowl
large bowl
wire whisk
standing mixer (a hand held will work too but be ready for an arm workout, the batter is heavy)
silicone spatula
regular spoon (the kind you eat cereal with)
1 ½ cups confectioners/powdered sugar
3 TBS fat free milk
small bowl
wire whisk
silicone spatula
water glass
plastic baggie

1. Using the ingredients in the Topping section above, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
2. Cut in the butter using a pasty blender (seen below) in a medium bowl. If you don’t have a pastry blender you can use 2 knives to “cut” the butter into small pieces by making an “X” with your knives. I think it’s most efficient if you start with them touching and then pull them apart, using each one to leverage the other. The dry ingredients will automatically stick to the butter pieces, eventually making a crumbly, streusel topping mixture.

3. Refrigerate.
4. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Using the ingredients in the Batter section above, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
7. Cream butter and sugar together on medium-high sped until light and fluffy.
8. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.
9. Add vanilla.
10. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, just until combined. Batter will be heavy and a bit stiff.
11. Remove topping from refrigerator.
12. Scoop one small spoonful of batter into each muffin cup.

13. Sprinkle topping over batter in each muffin cup and press down, just a tad.
14. Scoop a second small spoonful of batter into each muffin cup.
15. Sprinkle more topping over batter in each muffin cup, the more the better!
16. Place pans in oven for 8 minutes.
17. Rotate pans and bake for an additional 8 minutes.
18. Remove pans from oven and place on wire racks to cool completely.
19. Using ingredients in the glaze section above, whisk sugar and milk together in small bowl until smooth.
20. For quick and easy drizzling, place baggie in glass as seen below by pushing one bottom corner all the way to the bottom and fill with glaze.

21. Remove cakes from pans and return to wire racks, pushing them closely together so that they re touching.
22. Carefully lift baggie out of glass and twist the top closed.
23. Cut a SMALL hole in the baggie.
24. Drizzle glaze over the top of each cake.

Voila, Coffee Cakes! Serve immediately or store in an airtight container. Try heating up for 10 seconds the next day and pairing with warm beverages. Happy baking!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boston is Filled With Bakeries

I am waaaaaaaay behind on sharing about all of the incredible things I have eaten lately so we’ll start with Boston. Boston is full of Bakeries. I'm pretty darn sure I gained 5 pounds in 3 days as I ate my way through the entire South End last weekend with my bestie, Rachel. We walked, walked, walked all OVER that lovely, twisty, brick paved city but when you eat dessert at every meal, it doesn’t really make a difference! I guess I don't mind too much though becasue we all deserve to over indulge every once in a while. Especially when celebrating a birthday ;)

Let’s start with the South End Buttery. Isn’t it lovely?

This corner café emits welcoming warmth with its fresh flowers, large windows, soft lighting and friendly staff.

Before we got our fresh, healthy and local lunch, I scarfed down this awesome chocolate, chocolate, nut and-something-or other cookie. It was awesome.

Then I took home this red velvet cupcake. The cream cheese frosting was a tiny bit too tangy for me but man oh man was the whole thing quite tasty later that night.

Rachel saved the best for last so on my third and final day in the bay state, we went to Flour. We were probably there for almost 2 hours but the waiting in line (twice) and waiting for food in this ridiculously popular café didn't even phase me - I was completely overwhelmed! Hopefully Rachel was the only one to notice my indecision as I stood wide-eyed and salivating at the bakery case, trying to pick my poison. It was impossible to get a picture of the whole counter because we were packed in like sardines, but I hope this gives you an idea of the baked bounty.

Every day Flour serves EVERY baked good you could EVER want. Bread, rolls, scones, doughnuts, pastries, cookies, cupcakes, granola bars, shortbread bars, fruit tarts, mouse, cake, brownies, pie, you name it! I guarantee that any craving you ever have will be satisfied at this place. And they do it up like that EVERY day! I couldn’t believe it. Every single thing was fresh AND gorgeous. It’s everything I think a bakery should be. So once again, as we waited for our fresh and home made breakfasts, I started off with a little dessert!

What's that, you say? An amazing little, eat right away, melt in your mouth, triple chocolate mouse cake!

After breakfast I left Flour with a cheddar and chive scone, brioche au sucre, full belly, giant smile on my face, and this awesome book!

Flour is a wonderful, beautiful and delicious bakery. I know I say this a lot but I just keep finding things that are better than the last. I won't bother to tell you about the so-so trendy cupcakeries that have popped up everywhere but places like this deserve rave reviews. It was an incredible inspiration for me so do yourself a favor and visit the next time you’re in Mass. Happy eating!